"Charles Eisenstein is the author of The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics. He graduated from Yale with a degree in Philosophy and Mathematics and for a while taught at Goddard College. He is a well known speaker on the topics of culture, spirituality, economics, gifting, the money system and community currencies." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/sacred-economics-an-interview-with-eisenstein)
Conducted by Mira Luna:
'Mira Luna: What got you interested in Economics?
Charles Eisenstein: While researching for Ascent of Humanity and looking into the origin of the all the crises on Earth, when you go down a few levels, you always find money. The money system is deeply implicated obviously in everything that's happening. For a while I believed money is the problem, but money is built on deeper causes - the defining myths of civilization. Still money is deep down and at the core.
I read economic philosophy by a myriad of well known economists, including Keynes, Henry George, and other more mainstream economists. I found that they were all contradictory. I didn't have a degree in Economics, but all these PhD Economists disagreed with each other so I thought a fresh perspective was needed to shift and expand the dialogue. I bring philosophy, history, spirituality, psychology, and nuts and bolts economics into it.
On a personal level I went through a phase where I was deeply in debt and went bankrupt and then broke. I was sleeping at other people's houses with my kids for a while and hit bottom. It became obvious that what I was doing wasn't working. That got me interested in the psychology of money. Money embodies unconscious beliefs in the nature of reality, self and the world like: more for you is less for me, we live in a finite universe with scarce resources, we are separate from each other, we are fundamentally in competition.
Mira: What are the myths underlying the money system?
Charles: There are two main myths the story of the self and the story of the people that each culture has to answer the basic questions of existence. Our culture says you are a discrete separate being, a bubble of psychology inside a robot of flesh among other discrete, separate beings. That's why more for me is less for you. Biology says you are the expression of your DNA that drives you to maximize reproductive self-interest. Economics says that again you are an economic actor seeking maximize financial self-interest. Religion says you a soul encased in flesh separate from all the other souls encased in flesh. Physics says you are a machine made up moving parts which are themselves made up of moving parts down to subatomic particles...These are operating according to forces so you live in a universe of force. There are bigger forces out there than you so you must master as much force as you can and protect yourself from external forces. This again leads to a paradigm of competition and control. That's the story of the self.
It's related to the story of the people, which I call the Ascent of Humanity, which is that we started off as helpless and ignorant and then thanks to our big brains we developed technology and began to conquer and transcend nature's limitations, harness natural forces, and someday our control will be complete and we will conquer the universe, defeat death, eliminate all disease, create paradise, to become separate from and rise above nature. These myths are becoming obsolete. They are no longer true for us or resonating with us. We are resonating more with an interconnected self. We are one with each other, we want to help each other and serve each other, to give to each other and the planet. And we don't believe deep in our hearts more for you is less for me.
Mira: How would you want money to change?
Charles: There are 7 suggestions in the book on how to transform money and the economy. One is demurrage or negative interest, which was tried several times in history, most famously in Woergl, Austria in 1932. The theory was described by economists Silvio Gesell and Irving Fisher and in practice often involves the use of stamps. In one example, you'd pay for the stamp tax with $.05 once a month to keep the money active. In this sense, money decays and it resists accumulation. You'd rather lend it out at zero interest than keep it and lose money. The modern version of this would be to have negative interest on deposits in the Federal Reserve to encourage banks to lend it out. By having money, you won't get richer, you'll get poorer, so you have to give it away, buy useful things, invest in your community. The money is forced to circulate. In my book I go through how this would still allow for capital, large projects...it all works. Keynes thought it was a really good idea, mentioning it twice in his general theory with uncharacteristic praise. Willem Buiter the chief economist of Citibank has written about it.
This replicates gift dynamics by making accumulation a burden and therefore enabling gifts to flow more freely. I advocate also community currencies to shrink the realm of bank debt money. In the future much more will be done on a gift basis, which is the only way you can have community. Community is woven from gifts and stories.
Mira: What steps should we take to get there?
Charles: Timebanking- migrating things that shouldn't be in the money system, back into the community gift economy. Sharing things and reducing the need for bank debt money locally. The money system is in crisis because of debt. They temporarily ease it by shifting the debt around, bailing out the banks and pushing the problem into the future at which point it will be even worse. Soon there will be a greater financial crisis. Do we bail out the financial institutions and make good their bets or do we let everything fall apart including wiping out grandma's savings account and uncle Joe's pension? We could bail them out but with negative interest cash. They wouldn't be able to get richer by holding onto money. The only way you would be able to get rich is by creating things that people actually need and want and doing it well so there is still room for entrepreneurism. Although there will be less incentive to focus on money. The decay of money emulates nature. Everything decays in nature, rats each your food.
Also, money should be backed by things in the commons and there should be a basic social wage for everyone so nobody has to fear for their survival and creativity can flourish. I go into other possible changes we can make to the economy in my book." (http://www.shareable.net/blog/sacred-economics-an-interview-with-eisenstein)